Over the past couple of years I've been aware in a change in my thinking about the world. I've loved the details of nature since childhood - collecting leaves and making paper butterflies - which is perhaps part of the territory of being artistic.
I learned to enjoy walks as a kid and discovered the wilderness as a university student, yet have always been aware of a sense that man-made things had occasionally 'spoiled' nature, (sometimes in a purely aesthetic way, like pylons across a valley or a factory against fields, but increasingly with a greater sense of ecological concern).
Then came a television series about the outdoors called 'Tracks' which aired in the 1990s. It was a magazine show with sound-bite topics about tracking badgers or mountaineering and the like, and each week came the eagerly awaited segment where an earnest, quietly spoken young guy in ex-army poncho and boots came on to discuss how to use natural materials to live in the wild.
I say LIVE here and not 'survive' as the man in question was Ray Mears and the subject was what he has subsequently popularized as 'bushcraft.' Not the Collins Gem SAS survival view of living in the 'outdoors,' but the desire to work with nature to live as part of it in the way that all human beings once did and many still do around the globe today.
In a world where we are so reliant on 'man-made' products, heating, food, transport, shelter and employment it seems impossible - and indeed barbaric - to live without the trappings of all we have created over the last five thousand years or so. Yet I firmly belive (as Mr. Mears discusses) that we can learn A LOT from people like the Hadza of Tanzania, or the resident's of Arnhemland in Australia who not only 'survive' in their natural landscape, but thrive and experience a (perhaps) freer and simpler life...aside from the bugs and disease!
'Outdoors' and 'indoors' have therefore become a bit of a misnomer for me - a fake construct. Nature is not made for us or by us (we are simply a part of it) and our apparent domination of it is only a few thousand years old. Terms like 'countryside' are similarly misleading, a clear indication of our urban worldview.
In those societies where people literally gather everything from the land (from food, through clothing to housing) there is a great respect for nature and a clear understanding that it CANNOT be exploited in order for humans to survive.
As for us in the west, we are at a point where we cannot live without our roads, houses, factories and supermarkets. There are now too many of us for the land to support (hence our reliance on imported foods here in the UK). But I do think we could learn a lot from those who live sustainably within nature. Identifying plants and wild food, making things from natural materias and the exercise involved in being 'outdoors' are all good for the mind and the body and help develop an a joyful awe of the world.
I strongly feel we should strive to understand our world, why it is as it is and where our food, fuel and values comes from - for knowledge is the key to solving the problems we see around us.
So get out more! Don't just sit 'inside' wondering what life's like 'outdoors', go and enrich your life...take a bushcraft course, make a long-bow, don't be afraid to play and learn; and above all remember we didn't make all of this around us. we are custodians building on the achievemnets of previous genartations. They made sure we now live 'indoors' but we must strive to understand that we are still creatures of nature and that life would be better (I feel) if we were to work more in tune with it.